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Regulation 9

The new lobbying code requires that those who attempt to influence legislative or administrative actions of City government may be required to register as lobbyists or principals and to file reports of their lobbying expenses.

What is new?

The City’s new Lobbying Code regulates lobbying in Philadelphia City government (and certain quasi-government agencies).

Who is governed?
 Lobbyists, Lobbying firms, and their clients (principals)

When does this happen?
Under an Advisory Alert issued by the Board’s General Counsel in November, the program of lobbying registration and expense reporting takes effect for all purposes on January 3, 2012. For all practical purposes nothing that happened prior to January 3, 2012 is relevant. For example, lobbyists need not keep records of any lobbying expenses that were incurred prior to 1/3/12; lobbying that occurred prior to that date does not trigger an obligation to register within ten days; etc.

Where can I find the rules that cover lobbying?
Lobbying Code (Chapter 20-1200)

Regulation 9, Lobbying

General Counsel's Advisory Alert

What is lobbying?

Generally, lobbying is direct communication, indirect communication, incurring office expenses, or providing certain gifts in an effort to influence City administrative or legislative action. All of these are defined terms in Regulation No. 9. The definitions are very important. For example, “lobbying” includes “direct or indirect communication.” Both of those terms include “influencing administrative action.” “Administrative action” is defined to include a list of 13 different types of official City actions.

Lobbying of Whom is covered?

First, any office or officer of the government of the City of Philadelphia, including elected officials (Mayor, City Council, City Controller, Sheriff, District Attorney, and City Commissioners). Council amended the original lobbying ordinance in 2011 to add “The School District of 2 Philadelphia, including any board or other instrumentality thereof,” as well as PIDC, PAID, RDA, and any other entity that meets the definition of “City-related
agency” under Section 17-1401(9) of The Philadelphia Code.

What if I have a personal tax matter with the City and my attorney contacts the Revenue Department to straighten it out?

In many cases, routine contacts of this sort with City government are not lobbying. See the explanation and examples in the definition of “lobbying” at Paragraph 9.1(X) of Regulation No. 9 or contact the Board of Ethics with your question.

What is required?

Annual registration, filing of expense reports, and
compliance with certain prohibitions.

Who must register?

Principals and Lobbying Firms (Code Section 20-1202(2)). Also, Lobbyists (Code Section 20-1202(3)). Generally, if you do lobbying, or if you pay others to do lobbying for you, you must register.

When does registration start?

It starts January 3, 2012. After that date, a lobbyist, lobbying firm, or principal must register within 10 days of engaging in lobbying and also exceeding either of two thresholds: $2500 in lobbying expenses or 20 hours spent lobbying by an employee of the principal.

How do I register?

Fully on-line registration will be available in the near future. Until then, the Board of Ethics will provide forms or an on-line format into which to enter the requested information.

Is there a registration fee?

Yes. The annual registration fee is $100 and must be submitted at the time of registration.

What if my information changes or I am going out of the lobbying business?

You can amend or terminate your registration. (Code Section 20-1202(4), (5)). You must still comply with reporting requirements, however.

What else is required?

Quarterly reporting of expenses. (Code Section 20-1203).

Who must file these expense reports?

Mostly, only principals. Generally, lobbyists and Lobbying firms do not file expense reports, although they must sign the principal’s reports, attesting to the accuracy of the information. (Code Section 20-1203(2)(g)). One exception: if the principal does not file, the lobbyist must. (Code Section 20-1202(3), (5)).

When are expense reports due?

Reports must be filed for each Quarter no later than 30 days after the end of the Quarter. See this schedule:
1st Quarter: January 1 through March 31. Report due by April 30.
2nd Quarter: April 1 through June 30. Report due by July 30.
3rd Quarter: July 1 through September 30. Report due by October 30.
4th Quarter: October 1 through December 31. Report due by January 30.

How do I file an expense report?

The Board of Ethics will provide an online format into which to enter the required information. Fully electronic filing of expense reports should be available by the end of the 1st Quarter 2012. You must report the total costs of all lobbying for the period. The total shall include:
All office expenses, personnel expenses, expenditures related to gifts or to
hospitality, transportation and lodging for City officials or employees, and any
other lobbying costs. In order to know what expenses must be included, one must
refer to the definitions in the Chapter, at Code Section 20-1201. For example, the
following definitions may need to be consulted in filing any expense report:
“Administrative action”
“Compensation”
“Direct communication”
“Economic consideration”
“Gift”
“Lobbying”
“Office expense”
“Personnel expense”

So if I testify before Council on a bill or I testify in a Zoning Board hearing on whether to grant a variance, is that lobbying?

Generally, no. See the exemptions at Paragraph 9.24(A) and (J) of Regulation No. 9 or contact the Board of Ethics with your question.

What if I draft a proposed bill for a client to submit to a Councilmember for consideration?

It is important to remember that lobbying includes not only speaking with and writing to City officials but activities in support of such contacts. Lobbying includes “direct communication.” The term “direct communication” is defined to include “personnel expenses and office expenses.”

See Regulation 9 at Paragraph 9.1(L), (BB), and (DD). This would include your
compensation and other expenses for the time you spend drafting a proposed bill
(unless you are an employee of the City and it is your job to draft legislation).

Is there a dollar threshold for lobbying spending activity that is too small to be regulated?

Yes. If as a principal you expend no more than $2500 for lobbying, you need not register or report. An expense report must be filed for the quarter during which total lobbying expenses exceed $2,500 and during each following quarter in a calendar year. If total expenses for lobbying are $2,500 or less in a subsequent quarter during that year, a statement to that effect shall be filed.

If I submit a proposal for my company in response to a City RFP, is that lobbying?

Generally, no, if submitted in the normal procedure for such proposals, and no attempt is made to otherwise influence the decision.

If I am a lobbyist already registered and reporting under the Pennsylvania Lobbying Disclosure Act, must I register and report under the City law also?

Yes, but only if you lobby City officials or agencies and exceed the thresholds. The City’s Lobbying Law is modeled on the State Act, so the provisions are very similar, but there are differences. And separate filings are required.

Aside from registration and reporting, are there things I am prohibited from doing?

Yes. Some of them include:
a. If you are spending money to make a mailing, flyer, advertisement, billboard or
the like to encourage others to take certain actions, you may not do it with without
clearly and conspicuously stating the name of the person who created the
communication or paid for it.
b. A lobbyist may not serve as a treasurer or certain other officers of a political
committee if the candidate is seeking City elected office.
c. A lobbyist may not agree to convert his/her fee into a campaign contribution.
d. A lobbyist may not make false communications in lobbying.
e. A lobbyist may not represent two principals with conflicting interests, with
some exceptions.
f. A lobbyist may not work on a contingent fee basis, where the lobbyist is paid
depending on the result obtained.
NOTE: The above is a partial list. Refer to Regulation 9 or the Lobbying Code
for the full list of prohibitions.

Must I maintain records relating to lobbying?

Yes. You must retain all documents reasonably necessary to substantiate your reports for four years from the date of filing and must make the records available for inspection within ten business days when asked by the Board of Ethics. Records include: books,
journals, ledgers, accounts, statements, invoices, bills, vouchers, receipts, charge
slips, cancelled checks, payroll check stubs, time sheets, tax returns and related
forms, contracts, subcontracts, business diaries and calendars and other related
written or computerized records. No records prior to January 3, 2012 need be
retained.

Can I obtain guidance or an advisory opinion concerning my lobbying questions?

Yes.  The Board provides advice about the lobbying law through advisory opinions and informal general guidance.  You may request advice on whether or how the City's lobbying law applies to you by contacting Board staff at 215-686-9450 or using the "Ask for Advice" feature on the Board's website.  Board Regulation No. 4 contains more information about advisory opinions.